Many pharma marketers have found their Facebook groove, but the next social network to master is Facebook’s other billion-user platform, Instagram.

Facebook Health industry manager Danielle Salowski said Instagram has potential for pharma campaigns, especially those trying to reach a younger audience.

“Now we feel that we’ve gotten to a point where we mastered Facebook, we want to talk about Instagram,” she said at Digital Pharma East. “This is now a place you need to pay attention to in order to reach patients at scale. [Instagram] is the intersection of amazing visual communication and the ability to share it with your friends and patients in a snap.”

Although Instagram has been historically best suited for fashion, consumer goods, or travel brands, Salowski said more than half of frequent users have expressed an interest in health and wellness. She added that Instagram is a place where users come to explore their passions and share experiences, and that doesn’t stop with health.

“It isn’t just fitness, dieting, or healthy eating,” she explained. “For example, there are a ton of posts just using #migraine, and [Instagram] is a place where patients come to connect, talk about their experience visually, and share with friends.”

One pharma push that took advantage of Instagram’s bold imagery and young user base was a campaign from Merck. Its Get Versed campaign for human papillomavirus (HPV) awareness made the most of millennials’ obsession with fashion and streetwear, two topics that thrive on Instagram, to educate about HPV.

The challenge was tailoring traditional pharma language for a young audience, said Nancy Nolan, associate director of marketing communications at Merck.

“When you think about pharma, we’re very formal in the way we speak and address patients, and it can be really standoffish,” she said. “Millennials don’t like to be spoken to with that type of formality and tone. So, instead of ‘talk to your doctor,’ it was ‘chat with your emoji doctor.’”

For a campaign such as Get Versed, Merck needed to match the feel of Instagram with a topic like disease education. Nolan’s advice to other pharma marketers looking to use Instagram is to make an image and message that will stop users from scrolling and to find people who know and use the platform to build the campaigns.

“Instagram is where visual expression inspires visible action,” Salowski said. “People come to Instagram to have a completely immersive visual experience. It’s just one image on the screen at a time; all of the periphery is gone. That’s an amazing opportunity to reach a patient.”